Tuesday, May 4, 2010

The Electronic Mob

Woit mentions a recent spat where Nobel laureate Brian Josephson was uninvited to a nice conference at a cushy institute in Italy. The organiser in question is Antony Valentini, whose email was posted on Josephson's website. I met Valentini at PI some years ago, when he was a supposedly struggling Foundations person, but it seems that he now has a successful career through FQXi funding. After Woit's post Valentini felt it necessary to post a comment, which ended with a recommendation that people who post emails on websites should read the book, Against the Machine: Being Human in the Age of the Electronic Mob. Hence this post. First, note that Valentini's explanation of his uninvitation was:
The email I wrote was an attempt to deal with a difficult and complex organisational problem internal to the conference.
Translation: some people at Imperial, perhaps not Valentini personally, like to protect the university's fine reputation. Valentini seems to think this is OK, because that's how things work, right? But he realises that
The internet is an evolving medium, and one can query the suitability of standard constraints in this context.
Oh, yes, we can. And we will. Let us not forget the guy with the broken guitar, whose YouTube video resulted in a $10%$ fall in stock value for United Airlines. An Electronic Mob it may be, but revolutionary mobs are not merely noisy crowds. And I would like somebody to explain to me how I'm less human than people who play 20th century politics.


  1. I don't have any sympathy for people who's excuse for villainy is that communication should be kept private.

  2. This reminds me of Gordon Brown's private comments about his supporter Gillian Duffy (who had asked him questions he felt uncomfortable with), accidentally picked up my a radio microphone a few days ago, and broadcast.

    (His first pathetic excuse for his double-faced treatment of her, after it was broadcast by Jeremy Vine, was the lie that he called her bigoted because he claimed didn't have a chance to answer her question due to the press around him, then he later claimed that he had misunderstood her. He didn't even bother trying to defend himself by saying honestly that the conversation in his car should have been kept secret, as it would have looked bad.)

  3. Update: online fist fight here.


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